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Outside The Luxury Box

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New Arena Or Upgrade Rupp?

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Outside The Luxury Box

Post  Carolina Kat on Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:42 am

Updated: 10:44 AM ET Sun, Aug. 21, 2011

UK basketball notebook: Think outside the luxury box
Arena task force focused more on business district

Jerry Tipton / Herald-Leader Staff Writer

Luxury boxes are not a magic pill sure to wildly increase revenues. Therefore, such suites should not be assumed to be a dominant part of either a renovation of Rupp Arena or the construction of a new arena in downtown Lexington.
That's what Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart heard on a fact-finding trip to Columbus, Ohio, earlier this month.

Gray and Barnhart led a group of Lexingtonians to Columbus to learn about that city's Nationwide Arena and, more important, its Arena District. The latter is the area of free enterprise built around the arena. It includes apartments, condos, office buildings, restaurants, bars, an 11-screen movie complex, a 10,000-seat baseball stadium for the Columbus Clippers minor-league baseball team, a 2.5-acre park and a 2,200-seat indoor pavilion that can convert to a 4,500-seat outdoor amphitheater.

While a new or renovated home for UK basketball has dominated talk in Lexington, the subcommittee of the mayor's large task force spent much more time in the area around Nationwide Arena on its day-trip to Columbus. That speaks to the perceived priority of a similar district surrounding an arena in Lexington.

"Most of the time, we were walking through the district, discussing how we got all that done and the city's involvement," said Keith Meyers, a city planner who spearheaded Columbus' Arena District.

The time devoted to the district as opposed to simply the arena has to do, in part, with having to cover the district's 75 acres of development.

But while in Nationwide Arena, Gray and Barnhart heard about the luxury boxes failing to meet expectations for the major tenant, the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets.

The hockey team's losing record the last two seasons (and four of the last five) surely affected the revenue generated by the luxury boxes.

Scott Ralston, one of the architects who designed Nationwide Arena, said luxury boxes were a trendy addition to stadiums and arenas in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, planners try to create a variety of options to give fans something more than a seat at the games. Hence, the Blue Jackets asked for 88 luxury boxes and got talked down to 52, Ralston said.

Among the options are what might be termed super-luxury boxes. Ralston spoke of knocking down walls and converting eight luxury boxes into one big lounge he said had a "country club environment."

Then there's club seating, terrace seating, loge boxes.

"What is the right mix" for a particular arena and its fans, Ralston said of the options in luxury boxes. "Some are still just dreams. ... You have some crazy people who have the money. If you give them the opportunity, they'd write a million-dollar check every year to have that opportunity."

Arena planners ponder seats near courtside that include entrance to a glassed-off area next to locker rooms where fans peer into halftime scenes. Ralston noted how another NHL team, the Edmonton Oilers, has a River Cree Club. Players must walk through the club going from the ice to the locker room and vice versa between periods.

Bill Rhoda, a partner in the consulting firm CSL International, said fans want a "touchy-feely experience." And, of course, fans are willing to pay for it.

Alas, Rupp Arena was built on the quaint notion that fans wanted to watch UK teams play basketball.
If Gray, Barnhart and company envision a renovated Rupp Arena or a new arena serving the need for interaction, no one tipped his hand.

"It never came up," Meyers said when asked the renovation-versus-construction question. "We primarily talked about the district itself."


Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/08/21/1851913/uk-basketball-notebook-rupp-arena.html#storylink=omni_popular#wgt=pop#ixzz1VinpmGe6

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